As soon as I made sure that my newborn daughter had 10 fingers and 10 toes, I started to search for clues about the genetic roulette snuggling on my chest. Who was this little creature with my small nose, her father’s almond-shaped eyes and her grandmother’s round face and dainty chin? The thatch of dark hair that resembled a 1960s bob? That was all mine. Would she be anything like me?
I hoped against hope that she would only inherit the good stuff.
And in those first few months, my wish came true. My mornings began with the sweet sounds of coos and laughter wafting through the baby monitor. She was all sunshine and rainbows—and nothing like the cranky baby I had been. When my daughter made the gastronomical milestone to solid food, I figured genetic luck would still be on my side and she’d be one of those good eaters, like her dad and her older brother. The kind that happily slurped down whatever goop their parents lovingly spooned into their hungry mouths. The kind I most definitely wasn’t.
But in the high chair, I met my match. Day after day, her face turned away each time a spoonful of puréed carrots, plums or sweet potatoes came her way. I puréed everything I could get my hands on, but nothing made it past her lips. My daughter was just like me—and it was driving me crazy.
I thought I’d be cleverer than my parents were. I was sure I’d get this part right—after all, I practically invented picky eating. I knew the drill, as well as her game plan, backup strategy and long-term goal. But I was wrong—so wrong. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to parent a kid who is exactly like you. And being outwitted by a tiny creature that had yet to know how to speak shook me to my core.
I thought I needed to win this parenting battle. Given our similarities, shouldn’t it be easier? For years, mealtime was a struggle—a full-blown war even—until one day it wasn’t. In her own time, she began to outgrow her finicky ways.
But for better or worse, the similarities didn’t end there. I saw reflections of myself while watching her dance like a disco diva in her room. The thoughtful naming of all her dolls and stuffed animals. The giddy excitement of buying and wrapping gifts for loved ones on birthdays. And then there was the epic stubbornness I knew so well. The refusal to brush her hair—or let anyone else do it—was like looking into a mirror of rat’s nests past. The constant battle to put on sunscreen. The shunning of pants with zippers (which resonates with me even now). The insistence on carrying a purse everywhere she goes, even though her dad or I end up carrying it half the time. The Sunday-night struggle to go to sleep because tomorrow is Monday. She is like me, through and through, and my heart goes out to her for it.
It’s hard watching my daughter get frustrated and struggle—I know exactly what it feels like, and I’d do anything to help her sidestep that pain. At the same time, I don’t expect or want her to be perfect either. I don’t think my parents worried about smoothing out all my rough edges. They saw my flaws and quirks for what they were: stages I had to go through to become the person I am today. And I didn’t turn out so bad. In fact, my stubbornness is what kept me from falling into trouble countless times—I hope her strong will can keep her safe, too. I realize I have to stop overthinking and trying to fix things. I have to let go enough so she can find her own way. Like picky eating, she’ll figure it out in her own sweet time.
This article was originally published online in April 2017.